“What do you think we should name him?” asks my friend, six months pregnant and expecting a baby boy. My first impulse is to respond with the usual, “José,” but her scowl makes me try to think of something less traditional. Then I run through the full catalog, including Mateo, Lázaro or Fabián, but none please the expectant mother. If this were happening twenty years ago, the baby would have to carry around a “Y”, like many of those born in the seventies and eighties. However, the exotic habit of using the penultimate letter of the alphabet seems to have been overcome.
For some decades, Cubans named their children with a freedom they could not experience in other spheres in life. The grayness that the ration market and state control spread over our existence vanished when you inscribed your newborn’s name in the civil register. The parents played with the language and created real tongue twisters, such as the famous baseball player’s name: “Vicyohandri.” A few even came up with the unusual composition “Yesdasí,” a mix of the English, Russian and Spanish words for “yes.”
Fortunately, in recent years calmer winds have been blowing when it comes time to name a child. An entire generation that had been named as if it were a laboratory experiment, now prefers to go back to the old ways. So, after several days, my friend called to tell me her decision: the baby will be named Juan Carlos. On the other end of the line, I breathed a sigh if relief. Sanity has returned to the act of naming children.